Welcome to The Building Blocks Newsletter

Issue One.............................................................................................. June 2007

Newsletter Contents:
Newest "Trad" on the block
Why make the mistakes I made when starting out as a quilter?
Math & Quilting

Newest "Trad" on the block

—Just a note about this title. When I went back to college, we boomers (51% of
the student body at that time) were called “non-trads” short for non-traditional student, as opposed to the traditional student (who was just out of high school
with little or no experience of the world). So, I thought the title “Trad” would
fit in here: the monthly feature on a traditional quilt block.

The block this month is
“Building Blocks” and was originally featured (by this name) in the Chicago Tribune’s syndicated column: Nancy Cabot, written by Loretta Leitner Rising during the 1930s.

Building Blocks is the name of the traditional quilt block shown here. I thought it would be an appropriate name for the One Block Only Beginner Quilting newsletter, because it represents the whole idea of my style of teaching beginner’s quilting.

As I’ve stated before, when you were a kid you had so much fun building block towers with great big blocks which took two little hands to put them in place. So, Building Blocks just seemed suitable.

It is only appropriate that I offer to anyone who signs up for the newsletter a FREE copy of this pattern.

Click here to get to the page where you can print it out.
If prompted, the Password is: Dublin

The pattern will make a 50”x50” quilt.

This is a very simple quilt to make—because it’s made of big square blocks—no triangles or flying geese or any other special mini-blocks. It is made with strips so it will assemble really fast! What a great baby quilt or with graduation around the corner, make it in your favorite grad’s school’s colors. Wedding in the near future—no problem! (see below)*

Why are strip blocks so much fun? For one thing, you don’t have to cut
a whole bunch of squares and assemble them together (like our grand mothers did). First, you cut a strip (whatever size called for) from one color, then you do the same for any other colors in the pattern. The you
sew two of these strips together, press and repeat the combinations needed. Then you cut the new strips across to make the “squares” strip. Once you have these cut, you sew them together into the pattern and you’re done!

Pretty easy, huh? You can thank Eleanor Burns for coming up with that technique and one of her books is called “Still Stripping after 25 years” or something like that. What I’m trying to teach (with the OBO system) is quilting can be easy and fun. I believe once you learn to do the basics, then you can do anything you can imagine with quilting.

*The beauty of the One Block Only Quilts—
they are at least 48”x 48” in size. Make up
four of these blocks, tie them together with
some sashing, add some borders—Voila!—
a quick and easy queen-size quilt!

Another way to make a larger quilt is using
the single block as a medallion (seen at right).

If it is turned on point then all that is
needed are a couple of border strips and
a large triangular piece for the corners.
This is but a few suggestions to make the lap-size quilt into a beautiful bed quilt.

Why make the mistakes I made when starting out as a quilter?

(The kind folks at SBI, who put together all the information for building a Website, suggest providing a newsletter to go along with the site). “That’s fine and well,” I thought, “but I’m not so sure the first one will be that easy to put together... I can think of topics that might be good later on. But what in the world should I do with the first one.”

So, the thought popped my head: Before the “mail box” starts filling up with e-mails asking just exactly what are all those mistakes—I decided it might make a good topic for my first e-newsletter.

Write a bit about my mistakes—but where to start? Go back to the 1970s when I first tried my hand at making quilts? Or just since I restarted in 2000? Maybe a bit of both—old then new.

Many years ago I made several baby quilts for friends who were having babies. I can’t remember how many I made, though. Only one stands out, because it was for my friend Chirea when she had her first little girl Elise. Elise is grown now with a wonderful little boy, Joe. But I made a hexagonal pieced quilt in pink flannel.

Mistake? I knew very little about quilting and, needless to say, hexagons are a bit tricky. Endless “Y” seams, for one thing. Secondly, I had to make templates that after a while became less and less hexagonal—or maybe they never were. When I found some of the leftover pieces a while back (in an UFO box) they didn’t have any side that appeared to be the proper angles.
I wondered how I ever got the quilt together—let alone get it to lay flat!

When I got into the boxes and other places I had stored fabrics I discovered blue flannels and purple flannels and even some with tiny orange flowers—all cut in (very uneven) hexagons! I’ve since used some of that fabric, cutting them into triangles or squares rather than use those horribly shaped “hexes”.

At first I balked at using a rotary cutter and mat. It seemed so... well I guess I’d have to say I felt like I was betraying all those women before me who cut their pieces with only scissors and a cardboard template. (Why?
I don’t know—considering how well my hexes came out with scissors and cardboard templates!)

But after reading over and over in the magazines and books about how easy Rotary Cutting was, I bought my first all-in-one Fiskars kit (on sale 40% off at JoAnns—I certainly couldn’t afford the $50 full price, so the $30 was a whole lot better on my budget) and off I went diving in over my head again.

It took a while to master holding the ruler so I cut straight lines. One of my first problems was carefully setting up to cut 2.5” strips and as I cut I’d end up pushing the ruler (with the cutter, no less).

I’d end up with 2.5” to 2.25” strips and had to set aside the smaller sections (I come from people who lived through the Depression: never throw away something that can be used elsewhere!)

Then I had to cut more strips than I planned and ended up going back to the store for more fabric.

Do yourself a favor, plan ahead. Always get a bit more fabric than the instructions call for—because nothing is more frustrating than to go back
to the store to find they don’t have the fabric anymore. Also they do not intend to re-order! (You can always use the extra—if you don’t end up using it in the current quilt—to make a scrappy quilt later.)

I’ve done fabric searches on occasion when I really wanted more of a particular fabric. It’s a toss up whether there is anymore out there and just how much is still available.

This problem has made me into the kind of person that buys the end-roll
if there’s only a little more on the bolt. (The gals at the fabric shop love it because they don’t have to remnant that little bit. Hey, it takes time to measure it, roll it up and then price it. Fabric shops can be really busy —
and a bit of extra work becomes troublesome.)

If I like a fabric and there is one or two yards left on the bolt, I’ll go ahead and buy it. It’s a lot easier to get it while it’s there, than to have to do a fabric search.

That was just a few of the mistakes I made. I’ll try to put a different mistake in each newsletter. Or maybe a funny story, or a Quilting Cats diary entry... I’ll try to make this informative and fun.

Math & Quilting

Speaking of fun... Okay, not everyone thinks math is fun. Or even likes math!

No doubt you know a young person who is being “forced” to endure fractions, or Algebra, or even Calculus, or most importantly: Geometry!

I’m no math wizard, I struggled through the courses just like everyone else. I hated the fact that, although I learned Algebra in High School, I had to re-take it in college many years later. Don’t ask me about integers or prime numbers because I’ve forgotten them as soon as I no longer needed them in school.

But, thanks to a really great eighth grade teacher, Keith Clark, I learned how to use math advantageously. He realized the students that year had not received a proper education in the basics: adding, subtracting, multiplying, and division. So, he devised a method to teach us to think on our feet, so to speak.

Every morning (his class was the first one of the day!) we had to take out a piece of paper and he would stand at his podium (my chair was in the first row—<I>right under that podium</I>) and he'd start reciting a series of problems. First is was simple addition, then subtraction and so on through the semester. We had no time to do the math on paper, we had to write down the answer before he said the next problem. He wanted us to be able to do the math in our heads!

It wasn’t until calculators came into being that I got lazy with that skill! When I realized what I was doing, I made myself do the simple math in my head again and left the more complicated math to the calculators. To this day, I can usually figure out the simple tasks in my mind more quickly than it takes to punch in the information.

So, why have a feature about math and quilting? Because they simply go together. If more teachers would use quilting as an approach to geometry, kids would get hooked on math (and quilting, too). There are teachers who have taken this approach and in every example I’ve seen, the kids had a ball!

So often you hear kids whine “why do I have to learn math? I won’t use it in the real world.” Wrong! To quote the NUMB3RS TV show’s intro: “We use math everyday...”

Quilters use math in every aspect of the process of quilting. First, geometry is key to every block ever created. Squares, circles, triangles—30, 45, 60 degree angles, rectangles, polygons, parallelograms, octagons, hexagons! You name it, quilters use them.

Secondly, we work in fractions in every part of the design process. We use 1/4-inch seams, but we often need to cut to the eighth-inch, half-inch, three-quarter-inch, seven-eighth-inch dimensions. Fortunately, we have acrylic rulers that have lines to the eighth-inch. All we need to do is line the fabric up to the right set of lines!

That’s not to mention figuring out how much fabric is needed for a quilt. It’s always fun to watch a new cutter at the fabric store try to figure out how to input a yard and twenty-two inches into the scanner that only takes decimals. (22 inches equals: .6111 or 39/64 of a yard.) Thank goodness someone sat down and made a cheat sheet for them!

Click here for your own cheat sheets.

Also you need to figure how much that 1.611 yard is going to cost you: at $8.50 a yard, it will come to $13.69435 which could be $13.69 or $13.70 depending on how the store’s computers deal with the extra decimal points.

That’s enough math for today. So until next time...

Remember (what my favorite sign says):
“To quilt or not to quilt? What a silly question.”

I’d rather be quilting,


this is a spacer block that
will drive the column
contents down

so it will not bet into
the logo's space

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Building Blocks 2007


Please, check out "The Quilting Cats Diaries" where the Cat Canyon Quilting Cats take over—with a newsletter/blog of of their own. Watch for clues in an up-coming Quilting Cat Mystery (can't say when they'll get around to revealing it, but they promise one soon).

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“Quilting Cats” Diaries.

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